Interstate Commerce Commission
Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) was a regulatory agency in
the United States created by the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887. The
agency's original purpose was to regulate railroads (and later
trucking) to ensure fair rates, to eliminate rate discrimination, and
to regulate other aspects of common carriers, including interstate bus
lines and telephone companies. Congress expanded ICC authority to
regulate other modes of commerce beginning in 1906. The agency was
abolished in 1995, and its remaining functions were transferred to the
Surface Transportation Board.
The Commission's five members were appointed by the President with the
consent of the United States Senate. This was the first independent
agency (or so-called Fourth Branch).
2 Initial implementation and legal challenges
3 Expansion of ICC authority
4 Ripley Plan to consolidate railroads into regional systems
4.1 Terminal railroads proposed
4.2 Plan rejected
5 Racial integration of transport
5.2 Relationship between regulatory body and the regulated
8.1 International influence
9 See also
12 External links
The ICC was established by the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887, which
was signed into law by President Grover Cleveland. The creation of
the commission was the result of widespread and longstanding
anti-railroad agitation. Western farmers, specifically those of the
Grange Movement, were the dominant force behind the unrest, but
Westerners generally — especially those in rural areas — believed
that the railroads possessed economic power that they systematically
abused. A central issue was rate discrimination between similarly
situated customers and communities.:42ff Other potent issues
included alleged attempts by railroads to obtain influence over city
and state governments and the widespread practice of granting free
transportation in the form of yearly passes to opinion leaders
(elected officials, newspaper editors, ministers, and so on) so as to
dampen any opposition to railroad practices.
Various sections of the Interstate Commerce Act banned "personal
discrimination" and required shipping rates to be "just and
President Cleveland appointed
Thomas M. Cooley
Thomas M. Cooley as the first chairman
of the ICC. Cooley had been Dean of the University of Michigan Law
School and Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court.
Initial implementation and legal challenges
The Commission had a troubled start because the law that created it
failed to give it adequate enforcement powers.
"The Commission is, or can be made, of great use to the railroads. It
satisfies the popular clamor for a government supervision of the
railroads, while at the same time that supervision is almost entirely
nominal." — William H. H. Miller, US Attorney General, circa
Following passage of the 1887 act, the ICC proceeded to set maximum
shipping rates for railroads. However, in the late 1890s several
railroads challenged the agency's ratemaking authority in litigation,
and the courts severely limited the ICC's powers.:90ff
Expansion of ICC authority
A 1914 cartoon shows railroad companies asking the ICC (depicted as
Uncle Sam) for permission to raise rates, while the ghost of a
William Henry Vanderbilt
William Henry Vanderbilt looks on.
Congress expanded the commission's powers through subsequent
legislation. The 1893
Railroad Safety Appliance Act gave the ICC
jurisdiction over railroad safety, removing this authority from the
states, and this was followed with amendments in 1903 and 1910. The
Hepburn Act of 1906 authorized the ICC to set maximum railroad rates,
and extended the agency's authority to cover bridges, terminals,
ferries, sleeping cars, express companies and oil pipelines.
A long-standing controversy was how to interpret language in the Act
that banned long haul-short haul fare discrimination. The Mann-Elkins
Act of 1910 addressed this question by strengthening ICC authority
over railroad rates, This amendment also expanded the ICC's
jurisdiction to include regulation of telephone, telegraph and
Valuation Act of 1913 required the ICC to organize a Bureau of
Valuation that would assess the value of railroad property. This
information would be used to set rates.
In 1934, Congress transferred the telecommunications authority to the
new Federal Communications Commission.
In 1935, Congress passed the Motor Carrier Act, which extended ICC
authority to regulate interstate bus lines and trucking as common
Ripley Plan to consolidate railroads into regional systems
Transportation Act of 1920 directed the Interstate Commerce
Commission to prepare and adopt a plan for the consolidation of the
railway properties of the United States into a limited number of
systems. Between 1920 and 1923, William Z. Ripley, a professor of
political economy at Harvard University, wrote up ICC's plan for the
regional consolidation of the U.S. railways. His plan became known
as the Ripley Plan. In 1929 the ICC published Ripley's Plan under the
title Complete Plan of Consolidation. Numerous hearings were held by
ICC regarding the plan under the topic "In the Matter of Consolidation
of the Railways of the United States into a Limited Number of
The proposed 21 regional railroads were as follows:
Boston and Maine Railroad; Maine Central Railroad; Bangor and
Aroostook Railroad; Delaware and Hudson Railroad
New Haven Railroad; New York, Ontario and Western Railway; Lehigh and
Hudson River Railway; Lehigh and New England Railroad
New York Central Railroad; Rutland Railroad; Virginian Railway;
Chicago, Attica and Southern Railroad
Pennsylvania Railroad; Long Island Rail Road
Baltimore and Ohio Railroad; Central
Railroad of New Jersey; Reading
Railroad; Buffalo and Susquehanna Railroad; Buffalo, Rochester and
Pittsburgh Railway; 50% of Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad; 50%
of Detroit and Toledo Shore Line Railroad; 50% of Monon Railroad;
Chicago and Alton
Railroad (Alton Railroad)
Chesapeake and Ohio-Nickel Plate Road; Hocking Valley Railway; Erie
Railroad; Pere Marquette Railway; Delaware, Lackawanna and Western
Railroad; Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad; Chicago and Illinois
Midland Railroad; 50% of Detroit and Toledo Shore Line Railroad
Wabash-Seaboard Air Line Railway; Lehigh Valley Railroad; Wheeling and
Lake Erie Railway; Pittsburgh and West Virginia Railway; Western
Maryland Railway; Akron, Canton and Youngstown Railway; Norfolk and
Western Railway; 50% of Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad; Toledo,
Peoria and Western Railroad; Ann Arbor Railroad; 50% of Winston-Salem
Atlantic Coast Line Railroad; Louisville and Nashville Railroad;
Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway; Clinchfield Railroad;
Atlanta, Birmingham and Coast Railroad; Mobile and Northern Railroad;
New Orleans Great Northern Railroad; 25% of Chicago, Indianapolis and
Louisville Railway (Monon Railway); 50% of Winston-Salem Southbound
Southern Railway; Norfolk Southern Railroad; Tennessee Central Railway
(east of Nashville); Florida East Coast Railway; 25% of Chicago,
Indianapolis and Louisville Railway (Monon Railway)
Illinois Central Railroad; Central of Georgia Railway; Minneapolis and
St. Louis Railway;
Tennessee Central Railway
Tennessee Central Railway (west of Nashville); St.
Louis Southwestern Railway (Cotton Belt Railway); Atlanta and St.
Andrews Bay Railroad
Chicago and North Western Railway; Chicago and Eastern Illinois
Railway; Litchfield and Madison Railway; Mobile and Ohio Railroad;
Columbus and Greenville Railway; Lake Superior and Ishpeming Railroad
Great Northern-Northern Pacific Railway; Spokane, Portland and Seattle
Railway; 50% of Butte, Anaconda and Pacific Railway
Milwaukee Road; Escanaba and Lake Superior Railroad; Duluth, Missabe
and Northern Railway; Duluth and Iron Range Railroad; 50% of Butte,
Anaconda and Pacific Railway; trackage rights on Spokane, Portland and
Seattle Railway to Portland, Oregon.
Burlington Route; Colorado and Southern Railway; Fort Worth and Denver
Railway; Green Bay and Western Railroad; Missouri-Kansas-Texas
Railroad; 50% of Trinity and Brazos Valley Railroad; Oklahoma
Union Pacific Railroad; Kansas City Southern Railway
Southern Pacific Railroad
Santa Fe Railway; Chicago Great Western Railway; Kansas City, Mexico
and Orient Railway; Missouri and North Arkansas Railway; Midland
Valley Railroad; Minneapolis, Northfield and Southern Railway
Missouri Pacific Railroad; Texas and Pacific Railway; Kansas, Oklahoma
and Gulf Railway; Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad; Denver and
Salt Lake Railroad; Western Pacific Railroad; Fort Smith and Western
Rock Island-Frisco Railway; Alabama, Tennessee and Northern Railroad;
50% of Trinity and Brazos Valley Railroad; Louisiana and Arkansas
Railway; Meridian and Bigbee Railroad
Canadian National; Detroit, Grand Haven and Milwaukee Railway; Grand
Trunk Western Railway
Canadian Pacific; Soo Line; Duluth, South Shore and Atlantic Railway;
Terminal railroads proposed
There were 100 terminal railroads that were also proposed. Below is a
Toledo Terminal Railroad; Detroit Terminal Railroad; Kankakee &
Indianapolis Union Railway; Boston Terminal; Ft. Wayne Union Railway;
Norfolk & Portsmouth Belt Line Railroad
Toledo, Angola & Western Railway
Akron and Barberton Belt Railroad; Canton Railroad; Muskegon Railway
Philadelphia Belt Line Railroad; Fort Street Union Depot; Detroit
Railroad Depot & Station; 15 other properties throughout the
St. Louis & O'Fallon Railway; Detroit & Western Railway; Flint
Belt Railroad; 63 other properties throughout the United States
Youngstown & Northern Railroad; Delray Connecting Railroad;
Wyandotte Southern Railroad; Wyandotte Terminal Railroad; South
Many small railroads failed during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Of those lines that survived, the stronger ones were not interested in
supporting the weaker ones. Congress repudiated Ripley's Plan with
the Transportation Act of 1940, and the consolidation idea was
Racial integration of transport
Although racial discrimination was never a major focus of its efforts,
the ICC had to address civil rights issues when passengers filed
Main article: Timeline of the African-American Civil Rights Movement
April 28, 1941 - In Mitchell v. United States, the United States
Supreme Court rules that discrimination in which a colored man who had
paid a first class fare for an interstate journey was compelled to
leave that car and ride in a second class car was essentially unjust,
and violated the Interstate Commerce Act. The court thus overturns
an ICC order dismissing a complaint against an interstate carrier.
June 3, 1946 - In Morgan v. Virginia, the Supreme Court invalidates
provisions of the
Virginia Code which require the separation of white
and colored passengers where applied to interstate bus transport. The
state law is unconstitutional insofar as it is burdening interstate
commerce, an area of federal jurisdiction.
June 5, 1950 - In Henderson v. United States, the Supreme Court rules
to abolish segregation of reserved tables in railroad dining cars.
The Southern Railway had reserved tables in such a way as to allocate
one table conditionally for blacks and multiple tables for whites; a
black passenger traveling first-class was not served in the dining car
as the one reserved table was in use. The ICC ruled the discrimination
to be an error in judgement on the part of an individual dining car
steward; both the United States District Court for the District of
Maryland and the Supreme Court disagreed, finding the published
policies of the railroad itself to be in violation of the Interstate
September 1, 1953 - In Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company, Women's
Army Corps private Sarah Keys, represented by civil rights lawyer
Dovey Roundtree, becomes the first black to challenge the "separate
but equal" doctrine in bus segregation before the ICC. While the
initial ICC reviewing commissioner declined to accept the case,
Brown v. Board of Education
Brown v. Board of Education (1954) "did not preclude
segregation in a private business such as a bus company," Roundtree
ultimately prevailed in obtaining a review by the full eleven-person
November 7, 1955 – ICC bans bus segregation in interstate travel in
Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company. This extends the logic of
Brown v. Board of Education, a precedent ending the use of "separate
but equal" as a defence against discrimination claims in education, to
bus travel across state lines.
December 5, 1960 - In Boynton v. Virginia, the Supreme Court holds
that racial segregation in bus terminals is illegal because such
segregation violates the Interstate Commerce Act. This ruling, in
combination with the ICC's 1955 decision in Keys v. Carolina Coach,
effectively outlaws segregation on interstate buses and at the
terminals servicing such buses.
September 23, 1961 - The ICC, at Attorney General Robert F.
Kennedy’s insistence, issues new rules ending discrimination in
interstate travel. Effective November 1, 1961, six years after the
commission's own ruling in Keys v. Carolina Coach Company, all
interstate buses required to display a certificate that reads:
“Seating aboard this vehicle is without regard to race, color,
creed, or national origin, by order of the Interstate Commerce
Relationship between regulatory body and the regulated
A friendly relationship between the regulators and the regulated is
evident in several early civil rights cases. Throughout the South,
railroads had established segregated facilities for sleeping cars,
coaches and dining cars. At the same time, the plain language of the
Act (forbidding "undue or unreasonable preference" as well as
"personal discrimination") could be read as an implied invitation for
activist regulators to chip away at racial discrimination.
It shall be unlawful for any common carrier subject to the provisions
of this part to make, give, or cause any undue or unreasonable
preference or advantage to any particular person, company, firm,
corporation, association, locality, port, port district, gateway,
transit point, region, district, territory, or any particular
description of traffic, in any respect whatsoever; or to subject any
particular person, company, firm, corporation, association, locality,
port, port district, gateway, transit point, region, district,
territory, or any particular description of traffic to any undue or
unreasonable prejudice or disadvantage in any respect whatsoever. .
In at least two landmark cases, however, the Commission sided with the
railroads rather than with the African-American passengers who had
filed complaints. In both Mitchell v. United States (1941) and
Henderson v. United States, the Supreme Court took a more expansive
view of the Act than the Commission. In 1962, the ICC banned
racial discrimination in buses and bus stations, but it did not do so
until several months after a binding pro-integration Supreme Court
Boynton v. Virginia
Boynton v. Virginia and the Freedom Rides (in which activists
engaged in civil disobedience to desegregate interstate buses).
A Puck magazine cartoon from 1907 depicting two large bears named
"Interstate Commerce Commission" and "Federal Courts" attacking Wall
The limitation on railroad rates in 1906-07 depreciated the value of
railroad securities, a factor in causing the panic of 1907.
Some economists and historians, such as
Milton Friedman assert that
existing railroad interests took advantage of ICC regulations to
strengthen their control of the industry and prevent competition,
constituting regulatory capture.
David D. Friedman
David D. Friedman argues that the ICC always served the
railroads as a cartelizing agent and used its authority over other
forms of transportation to prevent them, where possible, from
undercutting the railroads.
Congress passed various deregulation measures in the 1970s and early
1980s which diminished ICC authority, including the Railroad
Regulatory Reform Act of 1976 ("4R Act"), the Motor
Carrier Act of 1980 and the
Staggers Rail Act
Staggers Rail Act of 1980. Senator Fred R.
Oklahoma was a strong supporter of abolishing the
Commission. In December 1995, with most of the ICC's powers had
been eliminated or repealed, Congress finally abolished the agency
with the ICC Termination Act of 1995. Final Chair Gail McDonald
oversaw transferring its remaining functions to a new agency, the U.S.
Surface Transportation Board
Surface Transportation Board (STB), which reviews merger/acquisitions,
rail line abandonments and railroad corporate filings.
ICC jurisdiction on rail safety (hours of service rules, equipment and
inspection standards) was transferred to the Federal Railroad
Administration pursuant to the Federal
Railroad Safety Act of 1970.
Motor carriers (bus lines, trucking companies) are now regulated by
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), within the
U.S. Department of Transportation
U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT). Prior to its abolition, the
ICC issued identification numbers to motor carriers for which it
issued licenses. These identification numbers were generally in the
form of "ICC MC-000000". When the ICC was dissolved, the function of
licensing interstate motor carriers was transferred to FMCSA. All
motor carriers with federal licenses now have a USDOT number such as
The ICC served as a model for later regulatory efforts. Unlike, for
example, state medical boards (historically administered by the
doctors themselves), the seven Interstate Commerce Commissioners and
their staffs were full-time regulators who could have no economic ties
to the industries they regulated. Since 1887, some state and other
federal agencies adopted this structure. And, like the ICC, later
agencies tended to be organized as multi-headed independent
commissions with staggered terms for the commissioners. At the federal
level, agencies patterned after the ICC included the Federal Trade
Commission (1914), the
Federal Communications Commission
Federal Communications Commission (1934), the
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (1934), the National Labor
Relations Board (1935), the
Civil Aeronautics Board
Civil Aeronautics Board (1940), Postal
Regulatory Commission (1970) and the Consumer Product Safety
In recent decades, this regulatory structure of independent federal
agencies has gone out of fashion. The agencies created after the 1970s
generally have single heads appointed by the President and are
divisions inside executive Cabinet Departments (e.g., the Occupational
Safety and Health Administration (1970) or the Transportation Security
Administration (2002)). The trend is the same at the state level,
though it is probably less pronounced.
Interstate Commerce Commission
Interstate Commerce Commission had a strong influence on the
founders of Australia. The
Constitution of Australia
Constitution of Australia provides (§§
101-104; also § 73) for the establishment of an Inter-State
Commission, modeled after the United States' Interstate Commerce
Commission. However, these provisions have largely not been put into
practice; the Commission existed between 1913–1920, and 1975–1989,
but never assumed the role which Australia's founders had intended for
Interstate Commerce Commission
Interstate Commerce Commission litigation
Category: People of the Interstate Commerce Commission
Civil Aeronautics Board, a comparable body regulating American air
Airline deregulation in the United States, an overview of the CAB's
rise and fall
History of rail transport in the United States
United States administrative law
^ United States. Interstate Commerce Act of 1887, Pub.L. 49–104,
24 Stat. 379, enacted February 4, 1887.
^ a b Sharfman, I. Leo (1915). Railway Regulation. Chicago: LaSalle
^ "Thomas McIntyre Cooley; 1824-1898".
Thomas M. Cooley
Thomas M. Cooley Law School.
Lansing, MI: Western Michigan University. Retrieved 2017-02-25.
^ Thomas Frank, "Politics will undermine regulation plan" Marketplace,
American Public Media, June 18, 2009.
^ U.S. Supreme Court.
Interstate Commerce Commission
Interstate Commerce Commission v. Cincinnati,
New Orleans and Texas Pacific Railway Co., 167 U.S. 479 (1897).
^ Safety Appliance Act of Mar. 2, 1893, 52nd Congress, 2nd session,
ch. 196, 27 Stat. 531. Safety Appliance Act of March 2,
1903, 57th Congress, 2nd session, ch. 976, 32 Stat. 943.
Safety Appliance Act of April 14, 1910, 61st Congress, 2nd session,
ch. 160, 36 Stat. 298.
^ United States.
Hepburn Act of 1906, 59th Congress, Sess. 1, ch.
3591, 34 Stat. 584, approved 1906-06-29.
Mann-Elkins Act of 1910, 61st Congress, ch. 309, 36 Stat. 539,
^ Valuation Act, 62nd Congress, ch. 92, 37 Stat. 701,
^ Communications Act of 1934, 73rd Congress, ch. 652, Public Law 416,
48 Stat. 1064, June 19, 1934. 47 U.S.C. Chapter 5.
^ Motor Carrier Act of 1935, 49 Stat. 543, ch. 498, approved
^ Miranti, Jr., Paul J. (1996). "Ripley, William Z. (1867-1941)". In
Chatfield, Michael; Vangermeersch, Richard. History of Accounting: An
International Encyclopedia. New York: Garland Publishing.
pp. 502–505. ISBN 978-0-815-30809-6.
^ a b Kolsrud, Gretchen S., et al (1975). "Review of Recent Railroad
Merger History." Appendix B of A Review of National
Washington: U.S. Office of Technology Assessment.
NTIS Document No.
^ Transportation Act of 1940, Sept. 18, 1940, ch. 722,
54 Stat. 898.
^ a b Mitchell v. United States, 313 U.S. 80 (1941).
^ Morgan v. Virginia, 328 U.S. 373 (1946)
^ a b Henderson v. United States, 339 U.S. 816 (1950).
^ Challenging the System: Two Army Women Fight for Equality Archived
2009-01-25 at the Wayback Machine., Judith Bellafaire Ph.D., Curator,
Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation
^ Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company, 64 MCC 769 (1955).
^ Boynton v. Virginia, 364 U.S. 454 (1960).
^ Interstate Commerce Act, 54 Stat. 902, 49
U.S.C. § 3(1).
^ Edwards, Adolph (1907). The Roosevelt Panic of 1907. New York:
Anitrock. p. 66.
^ Friedman, Milton; Friedman, Rose (1990). Free to Choose: A Personal
Statement. New York: Harcourt. p. 194.
^ Friedman, David D. (1989). The Machinery of Freedom. LaSalle,
Illinois: Open Court Publishing. p. 41.
^ Walker, Jesse (2009-11-01) Five Faces of Jerry Brown, The American
^ ICC Termination Act of 1995, Pub.L. 104–88,
109 Stat. 803, enacted December 29, 1995.
Stone, Richard D. (1991). The
Interstate Commerce Commission
Interstate Commerce Commission and the
railroad industry: a history of regulatory policy. New York: Praeger.
Barnes, Catherine A. (1983). Journey from Jim Crow: The Desegregation
of Southern Transit. New York: Columbia University Press.
Catsam, Derek Charles (2009). Freedom's Main Line: The Journey of
Reconciliation and the Freedom Rides. Lexington, KY: University Press
of Kentucky. ISBN 978-0-8131-2511-4.
Kolko, Gabriel (1965). Railroads and Regulation: 1877-1916. Princeton
University Press. ISBN 978-0-8371-8885-0.
Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). "People & Events: Interstate
Commerce Commission." (Notes for the television program The American
Historic technical reports from the Interstate Commerce Commission
(and other Federal agencies) are available in the Technical Reports
Archive and Image Library (TRAIL)
Records of the
Interstate Commerce Commission
Interstate Commerce Commission and Surface
Transportation Board in the National Archives (Record Group 134)
Johnson, Emory Richard (1922). "Interstate Commerce".